Providence County Superior Court (P1/00-3287A)
For Plaintiff: M. Christine O'Connell, Esq.
For Defendant: Scott A. Erickson, Esq.
In this application for post-conviction relief, Parrish Chase principally complains that (1) the parole board has denied him due process by failing to identify adequately the reasons for denying him parole; (2) the 2010 and 2014 parole denials were unjustified; and, (3) the time intervals between those two parole hearings were arbitrary and violated due process strictures. Jurisdiction in this matter is pursuant to G.L. 1956 §§ 10-9.1-1 et. seq. A hearing on Chase's application was held before this Court on October 9, 2015.
I. Facts and Travel
On July 27, 2000, Chase was ejected from a Woonsocket tavern for rowdy misconduct. He returned within an hour and began swinging a long-bladed combat knife, killing one customer as well as another who had tried to intervene in that unprovoked attack. Shortly thereafter, a grand jury charged him with two counts of murder, but because of his mental instability resulting from excessive use of prescription drugs and/or alcohol that night, the murder charges were reduced. On September 30, 2004, the state amended the charges, and Chase was allowed to plead guilty to two counts of manslaughter. In exchange for the reduced charges, Chase agreed to serve thirty years in jail (fifteen years of a thirty-year sentence on each count, consecutively; the remaining time was suspended with probation).
Chase waited a few months, and then on January 27, 2005, he filed a pro se motion demanding that his agreed-upon sentence be reduced. This Court denied that request on June 17, 2005, and the Supreme Court rejected Chase's appeal. State v. Chase, 9 A.3d 1248 (R.I. 2010).
Since that time, Chase has twice unsuccessfully sought release on parole. In July 2010, the parole board denied his initial request, stating that "[t]he reason for the denial is due to the serious nature of the crime." (Parole Board Minutes, July 19, 2010.) In July 2014, the parole board again denied his request for release, stating that "[t]he reason for the denial is due to the serious nature of the crime and the life long victim impact." (Parole Board Minutes, July 23, 2014.) Chase now claims that he is entitled to postconviction relief for professed due process violations by the parole board. The Court disagrees.
II. Standard of Review
General Laws 1956 § 10-9.1-1 creates a postconviction remedy "available to any person who has been convicted of a crime and who thereafter alleges either that the conviction violated the applicant's constitutional rights or that the existence of newly discovered material facts requires vacation of the conviction in the interest of justice." DeCiantis v. State, 24 A.3d 557, 569 (R.I. 2011). "An applicant for such relief bears '[t]he burden of providing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that such relief is warranted' in his or her case." Brown v. State, 32 A.3d 901, 907 (R.I. 2011) (quoting State v. Laurence, 18 A.3d 512, 521 (R.I. 2011)). The proceedings for such relief are civil in nature. DePina v. State, 79 A.3d 1284, 1288-89 (R.I. 2013); Palmigiano v. Mullen, 119 R.I. 363, 374, 377 A.2d 242, 248 (1977).
Statutory and decisional law provide that a postconviction relief proceeding is the proper vehicle for raising limited objections to parole board decisions. State v. Ouimette, 117 R.I. 361, 363, 367 A.2d 704, 706 (1976). However, the legally protected "interests of one who merely has a hope of 'conditional liberty'" are sparse. Id. at 365, 367 A.2d at 707. Our Supreme Court has generally exercised a "'hands-off' policy" in dealing with the parole board, reflecting its ...